Kings of the Dance in London: An Interview with Roberto Bolle

Kings of the Dance, a programme that seeks to showcase the artistry, style and power of some of today’s most celebrated male dancers – think Marcelo Gomes, Leonid Sarafanov and Ivan Vasiliev - has been on the road since 2006. Yet, surprisingly, this is its London debut. Ahead of performances at the Coliseum this week, we caught up with Roberto Bolle, a danseur who needs no introductions:

TBB: How did you get into ballet and how did you decide you wanted to become a professional dancer?

Roberto Bolle: I don’t have an artistic background, I don’t come from an artistic family. There was no one to push me, so it was my choice, my destiny. Ballet has been a passion which grew up inside me. I was born in a small town in Piedmont. When I was 5 years old, I asked my parents if I could go to a ballet school, and I was lucky that a teacher came twice a week to teach class. Later, I went to the local town of Vercelli to take class three times a week. I was so keen on ballet that by age 11, my mother suggested I try for the La Scala Ballet School. I auditioned and joined the School. It was a tough decision for me as I had to move to Milan and leave my family, but they have always been very close to me. 

Roberto Bolle – Photo: © Giovanni Gastel

TBB: How did you cope with the training? And how have things changed in the ballet world since then?

RB: I think many things have changed in the Ballet world since I graduated, especially thanks to movies like Billy Elliot and also thanks to many talent shows that give audiences the opportunity to watch singers, dancers and artists performing together. Most important of all, the idea of the “male dancer” has changed in the last years. Personally, I was never bullied at all, but I’ve been lucky as, when I was 11, I entered La Scala, a privileged and safe environment.

TBB: How important are programmes that highlight the male danseur? How do you think it changes preconceptions?

RB: I think it’s very important to bring shows like Kings of the Dance into theatres because it definitely enhances, even more, the role of the male dancer in this world. Nowadays, there are many stars among male dancers, this number is on the up and can now match, or even surpass, the number of female stars.

Roberto Bolle in Le Jeune Homme et la Mort – Photo: © Luciano Romano

TBB: You are an experienced performer, how do you keep challenging yourself? How do you make each performance new?

RB: Every performance is different, and for me, this is due to a personal growth: first as a man, then as an artist. Surely, I now interpret in a different way ballets like Manon, where I debuted when I was 20. I just did it last month in Japan during the ABT Tour. I also try to always dance in new creations, have new choreographers to work with. For example, Opera, a new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky that I performed last December at La Scala Theatre.

 TBB: What can you tell us about the works you are performing in London?

RB: I am very happy about the programme that I will be performing in London, especially because I will have the opportunity to bring to the London audience – who already knows me very well – a role like Le Jeune Homme et la Mort by Roland Petit. It is a role I rehearsed a lot with Petit himself, and that has been a very important stepping stone in my career. In addition, I will be performing a solo called Prototype, a 3D choreography (!) by La Scala dancer Massimiliano Volpini. It features three-dimensional “cloning” effects that allow me to dance a duet with myself, thus projecting dance into the future.

Ivan Vasiliev and Marcelo Gomes in KO’d – Photo: © Gene Schiavone

TBB: You guest with many companies around the world, and the trend for code-share principals is ever increasing. What do you take from it?

RB: I started travelling all over the world as a guest artist, when I was 20 years old. During my career, I have danced with many different companies, theatre productions, and with different partners. Certainly, this has been crucial to my artistic growth.

TBB: What lessons do you take home when performing with other star danseurs?

RB: Sharing the stage with other great artists is a source of inspiration and growth. Usually it only happens with a female partner, but in this case, it will be interesting to share the Coliseum stage with some male friends and colleagues.

Kings of the Dance is on at the London Coliseum from 19 to 22 March 2014. For more information and booking, visit the ENO Website.

We started The Ballet Bag in April 2009 with the mission to prove that ballet is not stuffy, old fashioned and inaccessible; that it is quite the opposite: relevant, fresh and topical. With the aim to Give Ballet a New Spin we try to show it under a different light. When writing our capsule biographies, ballet fact cards, review roundups and commentary on social media, we cross it over with other art forms and cultural references (pop culture, cinema, rock music – ie. other things we love!).

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